How I Support Pride as a Queer Woman With Anxiety and Depression
As a queer cis woman diagnosed with mood disorders, major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I am so happy to see the increase in online support for both mental health and LGBTQA+ issues over the last few years. June is here and many folks posting statuses, images of support, pride flags and babadooks to capture the spirit of LGBTQA+ pride.
However, I can’t help but feel disheartened when I think about the intersection between my mental health and my ability to show support for my community. It makes sense to attend at least one pride parade as a person who is an “out and proud” part of the community, right? Or at the very least: an outreach group, club, protest or something that shows my true colors. Unfortunately, that can’t always be the case. This is especially true if you’re at the intersection of being queer and depressed, like me. It’s easy for me to feel like a bad activist and insecure about my true support or place in the community because of my mental health.
The idea of planning for a large event or being in a big crowd is intimidating, and I generally avoid unknown or uncertain situations if I can help it. While some people might make plans and change their decisions, adjust last-minute or go wherever they want that day — I can’t.
Because of my depression, I struggle to plan out a morning and follow a normal schedule. Because of my anxiety, I hate the idea of not knowing exactly where I’m going or what I’m doing.
I am usually “that person” on Facebook who replies as “attending” to fun events and doesn’t show up the day of. But the truth is, I fully intend to go — but last minute, I realize I physically and mentally can’t. Sometimes I plan to go somewhere with the best of intentions, only to have the sudden, extreme fear of something going wrong. Or I just can’t get myself out of bed because of my depression.
I often feel a knot in my stomach and a wave of nausea that continues until I decide to stay home — disappearing almost magically after I decide to stay. When I was younger, I thought that I had a cold or flu some mornings before school because I didn’t realize it was a physical manifestation of the anxiety I felt every morning.
So what can I, and others like me, do to show support?
There are a lot of ways online to help a cause: sharing articles, events, petitions or fundraisers for charity. Sometimes online support for a cause can be seen as “less than,” or “armchair activism.” This doesn’t take into consideration people struggling with mental illness, chronic pain and disabilities who are passionate but unable to follow the traditional means of activism.
It’s also possible to join a forum, a Facebook group or start a blog. Part of why I’m writing this today is to reach out and contribute to Pride month in my own way, and hopefully help anyone who feels lost because they can’t show support in a way that seems obvious. For years, I told myself I couldn’t participate in obvious ways or felt that my support was unwanted. Only now am I breaking through that mindset. Even small things like pride profile pictures, pride flags or rainbow accessories help.
I find that keeping up to date and being knowledgeable about current issues is also a great way to help. It presents opportunities for education and discussion among friends and relatives, even if it isn’t the most outgoing way to show support.
Another option is to join a pride event in a different way. Many events require volunteers, either before or during the event. You can do something more people-oriented, such as a greeter, or more independent, such as social media posting or office work.
In the past, I’ve contributed to causes by volunteering from home. Usually these events have flexible volunteer schedules and offer accommodation for people with disabilities, allowing you to choose what types of tasks you’re comfortable with. During this years Pride month, I am actively volunteering at a local pride event and joining the cause in whatever capacity I can. While it’s far from perfect, it’s a start at building my identity and place within the LGBTQA+ community.
Finally, I’m making sure to take care of myself, as “activist burnout” can hit me even stronger because of my depression — prompting feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. To everyone reading this, as a member or supporter of the LGBTQA+ community, your happiness and your comfort matters. You matter. And just because this is Pride month, doesn’t mean you should endure unnecessary stress or discomfort. You are not alone.
Happy Pride month to everyone and much love to the LGBTQA+ community.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo via Kosamtu